Literature Study GuidesBreakfast At TiffanysSection 3 Holly Spends The Night Summary

Breakfast at Tiffany's | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany's | Section 3 (Holly Spends the Night) | Summary



Holly Golightly stops ringing Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi's bell and starts ringing the narrator's at all hours of the night. They've never been formally introduced, but he sees her on the stairs and on the street, in a restaurant, and once even dancing on the street with a group of Australian army officers. Growing more curious about his downstairs neighbor, the narrator snoops through her trash. Among other things, he discovered she eats nothing but cottage cheese and Melba toast, she reads tabloid magazines and astrology charts, and she dyes her hair. He also sees the evidence of several V-letters, or correspondence from someone fighting in World War II. Those are always torn into shreds. He learns, from listening out his window, that she has a cat and a guitar. After she washes her hair, she sits on the fire escape and sings "harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that [smack] of pineywoods or prairie." The narrator wonders where she's from.

In September, Holly climbs up the fire escape and raps on the narrator's bedroom window. She comes inside and tells him there's "the most terrifying man downstairs" and she needs a place to hide until he falls asleep. She and the narrator—whom she decides to call "Fred," after her brother who is serving in World War II—talk into the wee hours of the morning. Among other things, they discuss Holly's attraction to older men and Fred's writing career. He reads her one of his stories upon request, but she's not too impressed. "Stories about dykes bore the bejesus out of me," she explains. The narrator is crestfallen—the story wasn't about lesbians at all. Holly then asks him if he knows "any nice lesbians" because she needs a new roommate. She is of the firm opinion lesbians are "wonderful homemakers."

Holly asks what day it is just as the sun begins to rise. It's Thursday, which means it's her day to visit Sally Tomato, an incarcerated mobster. These Thursday visits have been her routine for the past seven months. She didn't meet Tomato until after he was in jail, when he had his lawyer, Mr. O'Shaughnessy, offer Holly $100 a week for the pleasure of her company. All she has to do is sit with him for an hour, then call Mr. O'Shaughnessy's answering service and leave the weather report that Tomato has given her. The narrator thinks she's involved in something illicit, but she promises she can take care of herself. The narrator pretends to fall asleep, but "wakes" upon hearing her cry. When he asks what's wrong, she springs out of bed and makes for the fire escape.


The third section of Breakfast at Tiffany's sets the stage for the nature of the narrator's relationship with Holly Golightly. She climbs through his bedroom window uninvited in the wee hours of the morning out of fear of the drunk, raging man below. Instead of kicking her out, the narrator welcomes her into his bed. This is the first of many times Holly gets herself into a difficult situation and the narrator provides comfort. He does not lecture her or play the knight in shining armor—he just accepts her as she is. That calm reliability—along with his resemblance to her brother—is the reason Holly calls the narrator "Fred." Like her brother, the narrator makes her feel safe and—unlike the other men in her life—he wants nothing from her except her company.

The narrator finds Holly's company so appealing because he's never met anyone like her before. Her polished exterior and youthful face are at odds with her coarse language and forthright nature. Holly doesn't mince words and she doesn't try to hide her unusual opinions. If anything, she goes out of her way to shock her audience so as to get more attention. Declaring a preference for a lesbian roommate is a good example. The topic of homosexuality was taboo in the 1940s, and sodomy (which at the time was defined as "carnal copulation in any of certain unnatural ways") was illegal in every state. Many medical and mental health professionals considered homosexuality to be a psychiatric disorder, and the stigma attached to homosexuality could cripple personal relationships and careers. Holly doesn't care about traditional cultural values or the way things "should be"—she often scorns popular thought, particularly when it benefits her. She would be proud to have a lesbian roommate, not only because of the stereotype that lesbians are neat and orderly but because it would bring her a certain amount of notoriety in her social circle.

When it comes to Holly, nearly all attention is good attention. She is just as comfortable talking about her possibly illegal dealings with an incarcerated mobster as she is talking about her love life. She seems disappointed when the narrator says he doesn't think she's crazy because her entire reputation is built on being quite mad, or "très fou." The only attention she doesn't like is when someone pries into her preparty girl life. Personal questions are met with a scratch of her nose, which the narrator interprets as "a signal that one [is] trespassing." This not only indicates Holly is hiding something, but that she is also hesitant to let people see who she really is. The Holly Golightly she presents to the public is far different from the one hiding deep inside. This—more than anything else—is what attracts the narrator. He wants to find out exactly who she is, where she came from, and why she became Holly.

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